It is almost three years since Juan Martin del Potro sent Andy Roddick into retirement at the 2012 US. Open. Now, Roddick is back on the tennis court in Atlanta where he played and won an exhibition match in straight sets against the 17-year-old American Frances Tiafoe. Roddick is also playing doubles with his friend Mardy Fish who is retiring himself at this year’s US Open.
With Roddick stepping out of retirement to play doubles professionally this week, let’s look back on what Roddick’s retirement has taken away from American men’s tennis. Since Roddick’s retirement in 2012 American men’s tennis has lost its character.
When I say character I am talking about a player’s ability to connect with the fans, a more human connection that fans can relate to. American men’s tennis has had its fair share of players that have the ability to connect with the fans more than any other nation on tour.
Whether it was John McEnroe’s on-court rants, Jimmy Connor’s larger than life personality–climaxing with his magical U.S. Open run in 1991, or Andre Agassi’s return to glory overcoming his use of crystal meth in 1998. All three of these American tennis legends were easy for the average tennis fan to relate to, they allowed themselves to be seen as human. The same can be said with Roddick.
Roddick’s on-court behavior was similar to that of McEnroe. He had many on-court rants and angry outbursts with umpires. Although he was not nearly as successful as McEnroe, winning only one Grand Slam (the 2003 U.S. Open), Roddick still carried on the persona of what American men’s tennis was. He was not afraid to show he was human and when he was mad or had a strong opinion about a particular issue he let everyone know about it. The more of your human side a player shows, the easier it is for tennis fans to relate which is why Roddick had such a strong fan base. And let’s face it, players ranting is great entertainment.
After Roddick retired in 2012 to now however, American men’s tennis lost this character that lasted over three decades. There are currently no Americans even ranked in the top 20, let alone have that relatable personality. The top two ranked Americans right now are John Isner and Sam Querrey and neither have a strong personality on-court or a personality similar to that of Roddick.
Yes, not all American tennis players had the character of Roddick, but there was always at least one American playing in the last three decades that stood out because of their human side. Now there are none and that is what is missing from American men’s tennis since Roddick retired.
Right now the closest an American tennis player is to the personality of Roddick is Jack Sock. The 22-year old American who won the Wimbledon doubles title last year has a boisterous personality and if he continues his upward climb he may fill the void that Roddick left in 2012, but for now American men’s tennis has lost its character.